Abstract

Aviation may have contributed as much as 4.9% to global radiative forcing in 2005 and its carbon dioxide emissions could grow by up to 360% between 2000 and 20501. In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization adopted a global scheme requiring airline operators to offset increases in carbon dioxide emissions from international flights above 2020 levels2,3. Here we show that the scheme will only compensate for the emissions increase if robust criteria for the eligibility of offset credits are adopted. Offset supply from already implemented greenhouse gas abatement projects registered under the Clean Development Mechanism alone could exceed demand from International Civil Aviation Organization’s scheme. Most of these projects continue abatement even if they cannot sell offset credits. If the scheme allows airline operators the unlimited use of offset credits from already implemented projects, it will result in no notable emissions reductions beyond those that would occur anyway and neither offer incentives for new investments nor reward previous investments in offset projects. We recommend limiting the eligibility to new projects or projects that are at risk of discontinuing greenhouse gas abatement without further support. The findings are critical for negotiations under both the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Paris Agreement.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Data availability

Parts of the datasets generated during or analysed for this Letter are available upon request. The data can only be made available in aggregated form and some parts of the data cannot be provided due to the confidential nature of the survey responses and plant-specific data used in this letter.

Additional information

Journal peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks John Broderick, Susanne Becken and other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Owen, B., Lee, D. S. & Lim, L. Flying into the future: aviation emissions scenarios to 2050. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44, 2255–2260 (2010).

  2. 2.

    Assembly Resolution A39-22/2: Consolidated Statement of Continuing ICAO Policies and Practices Related to Environmental Protection—Global Market-based Measure (MBM) Scheme (ICAO, 2016).

  3. 3.

    Proposal for the First Edition of Annex 16, Volume IV, Concerning Standards and Recommended Practices Relating to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) (ICAO, 2017).

  4. 4.

    Assembly Resolution A37-19: Consolidated Statement of Continuing ICAO Policies and Practices Related to Environmental Protection—Climate Change (ICAO, 2010).

  5. 5.

    Healy, S. CORSIA: Quantification of the Offset Demand (Öko-Institut, 2017).

  6. 6.

    Database for Project Activities and Programmes of Activities (UNFCCC, accessed 13 April 2017); http://cdm.unfccc.int/Statistics/Public/files/Database for PAs and PoAs.xlsx

  7. 7.

    CER Index (Intercontinental Exchange, accessed 2 April 2018); https://www.theice.com/marketdata/reports/icefutureseurope/

  8. 8.

    Schneider, L. & La Hoz Theuer, S. Environmental integrity of international carbon market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement. Clim. Policy 19, 386–400 (2018).

  9. 9.

    Warnecke, C., Day, T. & Tewari, R. Impacts of the Clean Development Mechanis m (NewClimate Institute, 2015).

  10. 10.

    World Bank, Ecofys & Vivid Economics State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2016 (World Bank, 2016); http://hdl.handle.net/10986/25160

  11. 11.

    IGES CDM Project Data Analysis & Forecasting CER Supply (IGES, 2017).

  12. 12.

    Bailis, R., Broekhoff, D. & Lee, C. M. Supply and Sustainability of Carbon Offsets and Alternative Fuels for International Aviation Working Paper No. 2016-03 (Stockholm Environment Institute, 2016).

  13. 13.

    Cames, M. et al. How Additional is the Clean Development Mechanism? Analysis of the Application of Current Tools and Proposed Alternatives (Öko-Institut, 2017).

  14. 14.

    Schneider, L. & Cames, M. Options for Continuing GHG Abatement from CDM and JI Industrial Gas Projects (Öko-Institut, 2014).

  15. 15.

    Emissions Trading Worldwide: International Carbon Action Partnership Status Report 2018 (ICAP, 2018).

  16. 16.

    Updated Information on Exchange and International Credit Use in the EU ETS (European Commission, 2018).

  17. 17.

    CER Demand, CDM Outlook and Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2017).

  18. 18.

    Options for Using the Clean Development Mechanism as a Tool for Other Uses (UNFCCC, 2016).

  19. 19.

    Hamrick, K. & Gallant, M. Unlocking Potential: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2017 (Ecosystem Marketplace, 2017).

  20. 20.

    Letter to the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization Regarding the State Letter AN1/17.14 (European Commission, 2018).

  21. 21.

    Informal Document Containing the Draft Elements of Guidance on Cooperative Approaches Referred to in Article 6, Paragraph 2, of the Paris Agreement SBSTA48.Informal.2 (UNFCCC, 2018).

  22. 22.

    CDM Project Cycle Procedure for Project Activities v.01.0 (UNFCCC, 2017).

  23. 23.

    CDM Project Cycle Procedure for Programmes of Activities v.01.0 (UNFCCC, 2017).

  24. 24.

    Warnecke, C., Klein, N., Perroy, L. & Tippmann, R. CDM Market Support Study (2013).

  25. 25.

    The Market Impact of a CDM Capacity Fund (Vivid Economics, 2013).

Download references

Acknowledgements

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) provided research funds for analysing the status quo of CDM projects (project number FKZ UM13 41 173). The German Emissions Trading Authority at the German Environment Agency (DEHSt/UBA) provided research funds for analysing the vulnerability of CDM projects for discontinuation of mitigation activities, for the analysis of the CDM supply potential up to 2020 and for analysing the marginal cost of CER supply and implications of demand sources (project number FKZ 3715 42 510 0). The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management of Austria and the Office of Environment of Liechtenstein provided research funds for the analysis on using the CDM for nationally determined contributions and international aviation. The funders provided terms of reference for these underlying research projects but had no role in performing the research or in the decision to submit this letter. The research team bears sole responsibility for the content.

Author information

Author notes

  1. Unaffiliated: slahoztheuer@cantab.net

Affiliations

  1. NewClimate Institute, Cologne/Berlin, Germany

    • Carsten Warnecke
    • , Thomas Day
    •  & Harry Fearnehough
  2. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

    • Lambert Schneider
  3. Stockholm Environment Institute, Somerville, MA, USA

    • Lambert Schneider

Authors

  1. Search for Carsten Warnecke in:

  2. Search for Lambert Schneider in:

  3. Search for Thomas Day in:

  4. Search for Stephanie La Hoz Theuer in:

  5. Search for Harry Fearnehough in:

Contributions

C.W. and T.D. conducted the survey and evaluated the survey data on the status of implementation and operation of CDM projects. T.D. led the research on the vulnerability of projects with support from C.W. and L.S. The assessment of the CER supply potential was led by L.S. and S.L.H.T with support from T.D. and C.W. The development of the marginal costs data was led by H.F. with support from all authors. L.S. led the writing of the article with support from all authors.

Competing interests

L.S. is an alternate member of the Executive Board of the CDM. All other authors have no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lambert Schneider.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–2 and Supplementary Tables 1–4

  2. Reporting Summary

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0415-y